By LLAZAR SEMINI, Associated Press
PERMET, Albania (AP) — Albania’s parliament on Saturday elected a senior military official as the country’s new president after no candidate was nominated in three rounds of voting.
Gen.-Maj. Bajram Begaj won the post after the 140-seat parliament voted 78 for, 4 against and 1 abstention.
The ruling Left Socialist Party nominated and voted for Begaj, 55, after failing to reach a compromise with the opposition on a candidate to replace President Ilir Meta, and no independent candidate was named.
Most of the opposition boycotted the vote.
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Begaj is the eighth president of post-communist Albania and the third among the military. The five-year presidency has a largely ceremonial role and the chosen candidate must stand above partisan divisions. The president has some authority over the judiciary and the armed forces and is limited to two terms.
Begaj was elected from among six candidates, according to Socialist leader and Prime Minister Edi Rama, adding that no candidate from the government majority was considered.
“We have given Albania a normal president, a personality that is unquestionable in his integrity, his humanity and his commitment to the country and its people,” Rama said.
Begaj was released from his military post by decree of the president, who was visiting Turkey on Saturday. Meta, who has regularly clashed with the government, congratulated the new president. A ceremony is scheduled for July 24.
Begaj has served as Army Chief of Staff since July 2020. Previously, he held several positions in the military, including in government and military hospitals, and trained in the United States on strategic medical leadership and defense management.
The European Union, the United States and other Western countries congratulated Begaj on his new position.
“We look forward to working together for a prosperous, secure and strong EU-#Albania relationship, as members of one European family,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted.
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